First it was Uber drivers, now it’s judges: Why does everyone want to be a worker?

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By Polly Botsford on

District judge’s employment law case currently before Court of Appeal

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Worker status is the ultimate prize in two bizarrely similar cases currently running the gauntlet of the UK courts. One involves Uber drivers and the other is about our esteemed judges.

Everyone is familiar with the headline-grabbing case against gig economy giant Uber, in which two drivers, James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam, brought a claim for worker status almost exactly a year ago. An appeal on this was recently heard in September.

In that case, the drivers’ prize was the national minimum wage and being able to get protection from working excessive hours (workers must not work more than 48 hours per week).

What is less well-publicised is the curious case of Gilham v Ministry of Justice, currently being heard in the Court of Appeal.

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This case concerns District Judge Gilham who wants to be classified as a worker so that she can benefit not (you will be unsurprised to hear) from the minimum wage but from whistleblower legislation which protects workers against detrimental treatment if they blow the whistle on the organisation for whom they work.

DJ Gilham had raised concerns (to a senior judge) quite a few years ago now about facilities at court and judges’ workloads. She alleges that as a result of blowing the whistle, she was then bullied and subjected to undue stress. She has not been hearing cases since 2013.

It seems that worker rights are the panacea for all our contemporary woes from the humblest of roles to the most establishment of posts. (Coincidentally, the whistleblowing rules, the working time rules and laws on the national minimum wage were all introduced in the same year: 1998).

In Uber’s case in the Employment Appeal Tribunal, Her Honour Justice Eady QC has reserved judgment, which means that it will be published in full but we will have to wait a few weeks for it. Eady also indicated (though this is not confirmed) that she would allow any appeal to leapfrog to the Supreme Court.

Some employment law experts believe this one could also go further, up to the European Court of Justice. This is because there are important issues regarding VAT laws and the VAT Directive which might be relevant.

The Gilham case is in the Court of Appeal this week before Lady Justice Gloster, Lord Justice Underhill and Lord Justice Singh.

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